Greenland Facts

Greenland Facts and History

North America

Greenland is the largest island on earth. It is located northeast of Canada between the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean, for the most part north of the Arctic Circle and thus in the Arctic.

The Arctic Ocean is the smallest in the world and makes up the bulk of the Arctic. At its narrowest point, Greenland is only about 26 km, separated by the Kennedy Channel, from Ellesmere Island in Canada. The canal was named in honor of the British-Canadian naval officer and polar explorer William Kennedy (1813-1890).

The name Greenland comes from Danish and means green land in German. Incidentally, the name was a trick by the Viking Erich (Erik) the Red (around 950-1003), who wanted to lure settlers to the island, whose climate was somewhat milder in the times of the Vikings. His son Leif (Leifur) Eriksson (approx. 970-1020) was probably the first European to set foot on American soil long before Columbus.

Greenland is politically an autonomous part of the Kingdom of Denmark. The autonomy status has existed since 1979. However, unlike Denmark, Greenland has not been a member of the EU since 1985. Domestically it is largely self-determined; foreign and defense policy is carried out by Denmark. The Greenlanders are striving for even more independence. This was granted to them on June 21, 2009, so that little is missing for complete independence.

In Greenlandic, the country is called “Kalaallit Nunaat” as the “land of the people”.

It is geologically one of the oldest countries in the world with rocks that are up to 3.7 billion years old.

The island is largely covered with ice that is up to 3 km thick and accounts for about 6% of the world’s fresh water reserves, and only about 15% of the island is ice-free. Two thirds of Greenland are even frozen all the time.

In the north of the island is Thule, which was already mentioned in writing by Pyteas. The legendary country has always inspired the fantasies of the most varied of orientations.

Some believed Thule, like Atlantis, to be a lost culture of gigantic superman. No wonder that the National Socialists were ideologically very close to the Thule Society at the time. Here are the Inuit settlements (Inuit = Eskimos; means human) in the world that are furthest north.

Greenland is mostly populated on the west coast, and around a quarter of the population lives in the capital Nuuk.

Most of the population is Greenlandic and, unlike other arctic areas, has preserved traditions and identity quite well. However, they increasingly live in a balancing act between western civilization and the maintenance of traditions. The once nomadic people have now settled down, but still move to the freezing wilderness to hunt.

With regard to climate change, various scientists have made the worrying observation that both the amount of meltwater and the rate of flow have increased significantly.

In 1996 this was 25 km³ annually and in 2005 approx. 86 km³. So far, however, these changes have mainly taken place in the south of Greenland.

The average temperature in the southeast has increased by 3 degrees over the past 20 years.

Rubbing your nose

The famous “rubbing your nose” when greeting is actually an intensive sniffing in order to feel and memorize the smell of the person greeted.

Name of the country Greenla
Form of government Autonomous region within the constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary democratic system of government in Denmark
Geographical location 59 ° 50 ‘- 83 ° 37’ north latitude, around 13 ° – 73 ° west longitude
National anthem Nunarput utoqqarsuanngoravit
Population approx. 56,750 residents (Credit: Countryaah: Greenland Population)
Ethnicities 88% Inuit, 12% Danes
Religions Evangelical Lutheran, Shamanism
Languages Greenlandic (Kalaallisut), Danish
Capital Nuuk with approx. 16,180 residents
Surface 2,175,600 km²
Highest mountain Gunnbjørns Fjeld with a height of 3,733 m
International license plate GRO
National currency Danish crown
Time difference to CET – 4 h (east coast) and – 5 h (west coast)From the beginning of April to the end of October, summer time + 1 h applies
International phone code 00299
Mains voltage, frequency 220 volts, 50 hertz

Greenland: history

Before the year 1000

55 million years ago the climate in the Arctic was subtropical. Drilling in the ice led to the discovery of plant remains that can or could only exist in fresh water. It is therefore believed that the Arctic was a huge freshwater lake at that time.

According to Abbreviationfinder website, the first people to penetrate the Arctic were the Inuit ethnic group, who came from the tundra of Siberia around 18,000 years ago.

Of these, Greenland was settled in several batches, the first around 2,500 BC. And the last one took place about 140 years ago.

In 330 BC The geographer, explorer and navigator who was born in the area of present-day Marseille and died in Greece, sailed Pytheas of Massilia (approx. 380 BC to 310) in search of Thule, the land where the sun never came going down from Scotland to the north. It is believed to have reached Greenland and Iceland.

From the year 1000 to the 17th century

  1. ColonizationThe Norwegian Viking Gunnbjørn discovered Greenland in 875.This was followed in 981 AD. Erich the Red (around 950-1003), who founded a colony from Iceland in 986.

    Erik the Red was exiled again – to Greenland. As was customary at the time, he had already been expelled from Norway for criminal activities. He probably got his nickname the red because of his red hair. Other sources say because he had blood on his hands. After his first trip to Greenland, he returned to Iceland and described the island of Greenland as a green land. 24 ships followed him to the so-called green country.

    However, the settlements were abandoned in the 15th century when the climate became colder and Inuit tribes moved from the north to the south. One speaks of a small ice age around this period.

    Leif Eriksson, the son of Eric the Red, is said to be the first European to reach North America. He converted to Christianity with his mother.

    Around 1126 the first Norwegian bishop Arnold arrived, whose church was a red sandstone church in “Igliku”. Greenland was Catholic at the time.

    By 1261 the church owned most of the land.

    Around 1271, the Norwegians dominated the island.

    Wood was in short supply in Greenland. Boats and houses were therefore built from driftwood.

    Norwegian merchant ships arrived twice a year, bringing essentials with them in exchange for furs and walrus teeth.

    The first settlements were abandoned because of the cold as early as 1350. Around 1380 a Norwegian supply ship sank. The situation worsened when the Hanseatic League destroyed the port of Bergen, from where the supply ships had left. Greenland was also forgotten when the demand for walrus teeth dropped. In the 15th century the settlements were deserted or disappeared.


  2. ColonizationA second colonization took place in 1721 by Hans Egede, who had started proselytizing the Inuit around this time. Egede was born in Norway in 1686 and died in Copenhagen in 1758. He was previously a pastor on one of the Lofoten islands, from where he originally wanted to convert Normans or Vikings to Greenland who had fallen away from the original Christian faith. But he found “only” Inuit.In 1605 Denmark had declared Greenland Danish under its King Christian IV (1577 – 1648).

    In 1728 Egede founded Godthåb, God’s port, today’s capital Nuuk.

    From 1774 the Danes had the trade monopoly.

    In 1814 the Danish-Norwegian personal union was dissolved. Greenland stayed with Denmark, but that was controversial. It was not until 1933 that the Hague Court of Arbitration finally awarded Greenland to Denmark.

    After the Second World War, the Americans established air bases in Thule, Narsarsuag and Stromfjord.

    In 1951 the Americans and Danes signed a treaty for the joint defense of Greenland.

In modern times

Greenland has been part of Denmark since 1953 and has two seats in the Danish Parliament.

The Greenlanders received Danish citizenship.

They were forced to join the EU together with Denmark. After Greenland had been self-governing since 1979, it left the EU again in 1985.

It lives largely from fishing, with approx. 95% of the fish being exported. In the 1950s, the Inuit, who mainly lived from fishing, began to settle in settlements with an associated fish factory. With the disappearance of cod stocks in the 1980s, residents ran into serious problems. Unemployment, alcoholism, suicide, and AIDS are some of the social problems plaguing society today.

Exploring the Arctic

In the years around 1490, the Italian navigator John Cabot (1450 – 1499), who was in English service, came up with the idea of a Northwest Passage that would enable a direct trade route to the Orient. The English navigator Martin Frobisher (1535-1594) set out in 1576 to explore the route between Europe and Asia. He circled the Baffin Islands and found Frobosh Bay.

Henry Hudson (1565 – 1611) undertook the first Arctic expedition from 1610 to 1611, he was also looking for the Northwest Passage. The Hudson River in the US state of New York is named after him.

After the victorious battle of Waterloo against Napoleon on June 18, 1815, the British Navy was practically unemployed and therefore devoted itself intensively to the search for the Northwest Passage.

The first International Polar Conferences took place in 1879 and 1880.

The Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930) was the first to cross Greenland in 1888.

The first to sail the Northwest Passage was the Norwegian Amundsen (1872-1928). He was also the one who became the first person to reach the South Pole in Antarctica on December 14, 1911.

On April 6, 1909, the American Robert Edwin Peary (1856 – 1920) was the first to reach the North Pole after several unsuccessful attempts. He also found out that Greenland is an island. However, to this day there are doubts that he actually reached the pole exactly.

The American polar explorer and Admiral Richard E. Byrd (1888-1957) and Floyd Bennett flew to the North Pole for the first time on May 9, 1926. It should be mentioned that this is also disputed by some.

The first crossing by Wally Herbert did not take place until 1968-69.

In 1978 the “one-man expedition” was carried out by the Japanese adventurer and mountaineer Naomi Uemura (born 1941). He reached the North Pole on May 1, 1978 all by himself.

On June 21, 2009, Greenland gained a large part of independence, so extensive that it is only a very small step to full independence.

Greenland Facts